Lecture 22, Re-visioning Quantitative and Qualitative
The Natural Science Model and Qualitative Research
Quantitative Research and Interpretivism
Quantitative Research and Constructionism
Research Methods and Epistemological and Ontological Considerations
Problems with the Quantitative/Qualitative Contrast
Quantification in Qualitative Research
Two Positions in the Debate over Quantitative and Qualitative Research
Approaches to Multi-strategy Research
Reflections on Multi-strategy Research
Required Readings: Alan Bryman and Edward Bell (2019): Chapter 14.
Data can be gathered through either quantitative or qualitative research methods, depending on the research question
For example, if the research question has to do with trends in divorce rates, you would go directly to the numbers collected and published by the government (quantitative). But if you wanted to know how people commit crime, you may need to record their words and gestures (qualitative). The choice between number-crunching and descriptive studies is also colored by gender, class, sexuality, race, age, etc issues. In general, quantitative methods are thought to be more like real science and therefore worthy of academic respect, which is the basis for the term “social scientists.” In contrast, qualitative studies are often dismissed as being closer to art than science. Because numbers represent “hard” data and descriptions are considered “soft,” quantitative sociology has an aura of intellectual rigour , in contrast to verbal descriptions, which are seen as soft data.
Indeed, only the qualitative approach can uncover the how and what of “lived existence” (Gubrium and Holstein 1997). The rules of the scientific method can be followed by both types of researcher.
The scientific method is a set of procedures, developed in the natural sciences, for gathering information and testing theory. These procedures are specifically designed to minimize personal bias, so that other researchers using the same techniques should come to similar conclusions. The scientific
method includes these key elements:
- Objectivity—eliminating personal feelings and expectations.
- Precise design, measurement, and analysis.
- Disclosure of findings and methods.
When used to explore the physical world, the method has been remarkably productive, although never perfect. When applied to the study of social life, however, trying to measure the opinions and behaviors of living, acting, and reacting persons is extremely difficult. People change from one measurement
to another, and they do not always tell the truth. It is also nearly impossible to keep personal values out of social science, in scholars’ choice of subfield, of research topics, and how they interpret the findings.
Another major problem in social research is that what researchers observe and count is usually only an indirect measure of what they are really looking for. Confusing? Yes, indeed, and not just for students. What a researcher really wants to examine is often an abstraction that cannot be measured directly—for example, “economic efficiency,” “crime wave,” “torture,” or “colonization”.
The researcher has to pick something that is visible to stand for the abstract concept. That concrete something is an empirical referent, an observable item that represents the abstraction.
QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE RESEARCH
(1) QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH
*based on school of positivism: that if detach oneself can find "Truth" (objectivity) through the collection of aggregate data with an emphasis on numerical precision "Number crunching"
*sociologists Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim "social facts" influential aspects of social life that are based on school of positivism: that if detach oneself can find rate independent of an individual's existence
*emphasis on independent variables (i.e. causes) and dependent variables (i.e. effects) and importance of operationalization
*statistical explanation is equated with understanding
(2) QUALITATIVE RESEARCH
*reality is negotiated and constructed: "Perceptions are real because they are real in their consequences
*phenomenological understanding of how individuals or groups perceive and interpret the world
*Weber's verstehen: ability to appreciate an individual's contextualized experience; Mead: symbolic interactionism;
Garfinkel: ethnomethodology strategies that individuals and groups use to make sense of their daily lives
*social constructionist: actively produce reality through our actions and beliefs about it ... "knowledge" a social product that reflects our social beliefs at any given point in time i.e. "our observations say as much about us and the social context in which we operate as it does about the behaviour we observe"
(3) AN INTEGRATED / HYBRID VIEW: CRITICAL (social justice/ human rights)
*acknowledge that "reality" is constructed and negotiated but not completely ... There is a reality independent of our opinions of it and open to many interpretations
*take an inventory of "facts" and attempt to understand how our beliefs and understandings of them help to create and shape them
synthesis of the two that includes the social political contexts
Qualitative Research A research method that relies primarily on interpretive
description rather than on statistics.
Quantitative Research A research method that uses the features of scientific
objectivity, including complex statistical techniques.
understanding is fragmented not complete (Lyotard, 1984),
truth is a departure not an arrival (Barthes, 1988)
The Human Rights Perspective
Human Rights, as a field of investigation, is based on the systematic interrogation of injustices by seeking logic, reason, evidence, information that verifies a number of inequalities (atrocities). Critical Human Rights Studies focuses on the need for social change.
To what extent can mainstream or traditional social science methods facilitate
Human Rights research? Likewise how can the criticality of Human Rights research enhance traditional approaches?
Research: the Tool Kit
basic terms and building blocks
- defining the problem
- reviewing the literature
- formulating research questions
- selecting a method
- analyzing the data
- reporting the findings and discussing the results (applications and implications)
To repeat, data can be gathered through either quantitative or qualitative research methods, depend on the research question.